South Africa's soccer captain Senzo Meyiwa has been shot dead by armed men in a town near Johannesburg, underlining a spike in the country's crime rate.

The Orlando Pirates goalkeeper was shot after two men stormed into a house in Vosloorus, which Meyiwa was visiting on Sunday evening, South Africa police said in a statement, according to Reuters news agency. Other people in the house were unharmed.

When does it STOP South Africa?

 - Darren Keet, footballer

Local media, which described the attack as a botched robbery, said the intruders had demanded a mobile phone.

The assailants fled, along with a third man who had been waiting outside. 

"We can confirm that Bucs [Pirates] keeper Senzo Meyiwa has been shot and sadly declared dead on arrival at hospital," the South African Police Services said on its Twitter feed.

"We must emphasise break of protocol. We know there are upset and hurt people at the house where [the] incident occurred and at hospital. Calm please.

"We can assure all South Africans that we will do all we can to bring Meyiwa's killers [to] book," the police said in a further tweet, offering a reward of $13,700.

Gun crime

Violent gun crime in South Africa had been highlighted by the case of Paralympic runner Oscar Pistorius, who was sentenced to five years in jail for culpable homicide after shooting dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

More than 17,000 people were murdered in South Africa between April 2013 and March 2014, an increase of about 800 over the previous year, according to police figures.

Meyiwa, 27, captained South Africa in their last four matches in the African Nations Cup qualifiers without conceding a goal, and played on Saturday when his club advanced to the semi-finals of the South African League Cup.

"This is a sad loss whichever way you look at it, to Senzo's family, his extended family, Orlando Pirates and to the nation," Pirates chairman Irvin Khoza said in a statement.

News of the shooting prompted widespread sympathy on social media and condemnation of South Africa's rampant gun violence.

"How do you kill someone for a cellphone?" tweeted national team-mate Tsepo Masilela.

Belgian-based goalkeeper Darren Keet, who had been Meyiwa's understudy over the last four internationals, tweeted: "When does it STOP South Africa?"

Source: Reuters